Veteran of Arnhem, ex-paratrooper Leonard Hoare from Aylesford, has died. A British Paratrooper - one of a handful ever to jump twice into Arnhem - has passed away. Leonard Hoare jumped first at Arnhem in 1944, as part of Operation Market Garden. He returned to jump again on the 50th anniversary of the ill-fated mission.
Arnhem was the furthest bridge in the ambitious Allied plan to push through Holland and hasten the end of the war, but it famously proved “a bridge too far” - resulting in the capture of several thousand British troops.
Mr Hoare, then a private in a mortar company with the 2nd Parachute Regiment, was one of the few who actually reached the bridge, but he was wounded in the hand and made a prisoner by the Germans. Mr Hoare was born to Leonard and Lilly Hoare in East Malling in 1923, one of four children. He was an “adventurous” child, whose many pranks included releasing the cattle at the abattoir then in King Street, West Malling, so that they ran through the town.
At 14, he started work as a shop assistant and delivery boy with E. Baldock and Sons in West Malling. Despite his wayward early years, he impressed his employers and was made relief manager of their Tunbridge Wells shop at the tender of age of 16, riding the 15-miles each way to work on his bicycle. At the outbreak of war in 1939, he added a year to his real age, pretending to be 17, so that he could join the Local Defence Volunteers (later called the Home Guard). In June, 1940, after the retreat from Dunkirk - his older brother had been one of the soldiers taken off the beach - he again lied about his age so that he could sign up with The Royal West Kents.
He spent two years guarding British aerodromes, but that wasn’t enough excitement for him and in 1942, he transferred to the Parachute Regiment Plenty of action followed. His transport ship was sunk on the way out Algiers. He found himself lost in a minefield at night. He caught malaria and he was bombed while he went for a bowl of hot soup. His plane was shot down while attempting a night-time landing on Siciliy. He and other survivors were assisted by some anti-Fascist Italians, eventually making it back to Allied lines.
Along the way, on home leave in England, he met his wife-to-be, Violet Fuggle. They married in 1947 and had a daughter Valerie. In peacetime, Mr Hoare found work at Goldwell’s drinks factory in West Malling, before in 1947, being asked to return to Baldock’s. He them moved to a flat above the Baldock’s Maidstone store in Wrens Cross.
Mr Hoare was an active member of the Royal British Legion and of the Parachute Regiment Association. In 1994, at the age of 71, he was one of a number of ex-Paratroopers who jumped again at Arnhem to mark the 50th anniversary of the battle. After initial retirement, Mr Hoare returned to work part-time for Baldocks and did not fully retire until 1997, when he was 74, by which time he and Valerie had moved to Senacre. His hobbies were fishing and watching cricket and he went to most of Kent’s games. Lilly died in October 2008, and a couple of years later he moved in with his daughter Valerie, her husband Adrian, and grandchildren Laura and Sean in Aylesford. Mrs Danvers-Wright (Valerie) said: “He was a wonderful father. He spent hours and hours with me when I was young.
“He was always active, always interested in things, and never regarded himself as old.” He died in Mont Calm Residential Home in Bower Mount Road on June 5, following a stroke. His funeral service was on Friday (20th June 2014) at Vinters Park Crematorium at 12.30pm